Friday, June 19, 2009 | Categories: Episodes |
Sook-Yin Lee here. This week, in time for Father's Day, we celebrate our pops!
Beyond the fella who sat across from you at the kitchen table, who is he?!
Here's a twist on that complex relationship between fathers and sons.
My Dad was raised by his two domineering older sisters. When he finally set out on his own, he met my mom who was extremely beautiful but also incredibly bossy. Together they had four consecutive daughters. No boys. So my poor pops has been henpecked his whole life by Lee Ladies.
I was the middle daughter, the second of four, the attention starved one. In order to carve out my own niche, I realized early on, about the only thing I could do to stand out from my sisters was to become a boy. So I did. I was known as Mark.
I came out as Mark the summer day I took my shirt off while we were blueberry picking. I'd seen my dad take his shirt off when he was working hard in the backyard and it seemed like a good idea to me. I asked my family to call me Mark, so everyone else would think I was a boy. I remember bombing around the blueberry fields shirtless and free while my sisters melted in their suffocating polyester dresses.
My parents found me funny when I was Mark and I'm not sure if it's because they didn't have a son of their own, but they liked him. So I wore boy's clothes called "Tough Skins" and chopped my hair short in a military buzz cut. My dad had a habit of spitting on the sidewalk. I would follow two paces behind him, and whenever he spat, I'd copy him. To this day I'm proud of my ability to aim and spit like a boy. Not a messy spray of saliva, but that calculated bullet of gob that travels a great distance and lands on target. I spat and followed my Dad into the hardware store and when the man behind the counter patted my head and called me, "son," I didn't bother to correct him. It is a most awesome feeling to be accepted into the culture of men when they treat you as one of their own.
Eventually, I transformed into the logical extension of Mark, a JOCK. I excelled at sports, wore track suits and tube socks and still kept my hair very short. Dad took me to watch basketball games, and he let me play b-ball with him and the teenage boys on the block. When I hit puberty being a tomboy came in handy. It allowed me to avoid all kinds of messiness my more feminine girlfriends had to suffer through.
Of course all this has had it's consequences. Well into adulthood I've been mistaken for a boy, and I'm still trying to get a handle on extremely complicated womanhood, with all that walking in high heels and carrying a purse. I'm sure my Dad would love me either way but, I feel like when I was a boy, I got a glimpse of my dad, my sisters didn't see, and I can honestly say I love him as a daughter and a son.